Friday, June 14, 2024

Drink and be merry!

The week between Christmas and New Year’s — and the days leading up to La Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and La Navidad — are often full of too much rich food. Even in my quiet little life, I see myself wanting to make extravagant desserts, dinners and snacks. Why? Let’s just say ‘tis the season. 

This might be a good time to try making some festive holiday beverages instead.  

Coquitos, a traditional eggnog-like holiday cocktail from Puerto Rico, lends itself well to the ingredients we have in Mexico. While it’s traditionally made with fresh coconut meat and milk, blended and strained to make a thick, rich cream, it’s perfectly acceptable to substitute canned coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk following the tips in the recipe below. 

In chilly Sweden, the winter holidays call for a hot drink, and Glogg, a traditional mulled wine, does the trick. It also fills your house with the comforting aromas of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and orange peel as it mulls, or simmers. 

The flavors in this Venetian Spritz will transport you to the iconic Italian city.

The American South transfers the flavors of its legendary sweet potato pie into the Sweet Potato Dream, a creamy, delicious cocktail that might be more of a dessert than a beverage. Mexico’s heritage is showcased in the Mezcal Royale Punch, a delightful blend of flavors and alcohols that takes a bit of time to make properly but is totally worth the effort. And last but certainly not least, from Italy comes a Venetian Spritz, a fizzy combo of classic prosecco balanced with bitters and a jaunty green olive for good measure.


  • 2 large fresh coconuts or 2 (14-oz.) cans unsweetened coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk (see different instructions in recipe) 
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1½ cups white rum (darker rum will change the color of the coquito)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Ground nutmeg, for garnish

To make coconut cream from fresh coconut:, have vendor separate meat from the shell, reserving liquid separately. Once home, chop coconut meat into 1-inch pieces. 

Place about ⅓ of the pieces in a blender with 1 cup of coconut water. Pulse and blend until coconut is broken into smaller, ⅛-inch pieces; strain through a clean dish towel over a bowl, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible. (Reserve the coconut bits for another use.) 

Pour 1 cup of liquid back into the blender with another ⅓ of the coconut pieces, blend, and repeat squeezing process. 

Repeat with remaining coconut pieces. Measure out 3⅓ cups of fresh coconut cream. (If necessary, blend another cup of coconut water with some coconut bits and squeeze again to extract more liquid.)

If using canned coconut cream/milk, it needs to be refrigerated overnight so the fat (or “cream”) separates from the liquid. Then you can scoop the cream off the top and use it in the recipe, starting from this point: 

In large bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks. Pour 1 cup coconut cream and the sweetened condensed milk into a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to prevent burning. 

Once thoroughly combined, slowly pour the hot mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly, until smooth and frothy. Stir in the rum, salt and remaining coconut cream.

Push mixture through fine-mesh strainer into glass bottles or jars; cover tightly and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 1 week. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Shake well, pour into glasses, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.

Swedish Christmas Glogg

  • Peel of 1 large orange
  • 2 Tbsp. whole cardamom pods
  • 2 bottles red wine
  • 1 bottle ruby port
  • 1 pint Cognac or brandy
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar or grated piloncillo, to taste
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • Raisins and sliced almonds 

Using metal tongs, hold the orange peel over a flame until it starts to singe and brown a little, then place it in a large pot. Crack and bruise the cardamom pods using the flat side of a knife or rolling pin or mallet. Add to pot with orange peel. 

Add wine, port, brandy, sugar, cloves and cinnamon. Gently simmer over low heat about 20 minutes, until fragrant. Taste and adjust sweetness. 

In each glass, place a few raisins and almonds, then fill with warm glogg. Yield: 16–20 servings.

Wow your guests with a beautiful Mezcal Royale Punch that delights the eye as well as the palate.

Mezcal Royale Punch

This needs a few hours of “down time” to combine the flavors; read through the recipe first before making.

  • 8-10 limes
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 12 oz. (1½ cups) blanc vermouth
  • 6 oz. (¾ cup) mezcal
  • 6 oz. (¾ cup) Cognac or brandy
  • 24 oz. (3 cups) club soda
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle cold, dry sparkling red wine, Lambrusco or sparkling rosé

Peel 4 limes. Place peels in medium bowl (if using a muddler) or a jar (if using end of a wooden rolling pin to muddle); reserve limes. 

Add sugar, working it into peels until they start to turn slightly translucent, about 2 minutes. Set aside at room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Juice reserved limes to make ¾ cup juice; add to lime-peel mixture. Stir (or cover and shake jar) until sugar dissolves. 

Push through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on solids; transfer to large bowl. Stir in vermouth, mezcal, Cognac and 2 cups cold water. 

Pour mixture into resealable bottles or jars; cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

To serve, pour mixture into a large punch or serving bowl. Add the club soda; stir gently to combine. Fill individual punch glasses with ice, and ladle punch into glasses. 

Top each glass with a splash of sparkling red wine and lime slice. Yields 18–20 drinks.

Sweet Potato Dream

A delicious dessert drink with an almost pudding-like texture.

  • 1 (18-oz.) can diced sweet potatoes in light syrup
  • 1-2 Tbsp. spiced rum
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup, to taste
  • Garnish: Whipped cream, marshmallows, cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon

Empty the can of sweet potatoes, including syrup, into blender and purée. 

In cocktail shaker or metal or glass container with a tight-fitting lid, combine about a tablespoon of purée with rum, egg and maple syrup. Shake vigorously, without ice. 

Half-fill shaker with ice; shake again. Strain mixture into cocktail glass. 

Top with a marshmallows or whipped cream. Grate cinnamon stick over the top, or dust with ground cinnamon. Yields 1 drink. 

Venetian Spritz

  • 3 oz. prosecco
  • 1½ oz. Aperol, Campari or other bitter aperitif
  • 1½ oz. soda water
  • Green olive, for garnish

Gently stir all liquid ingredients over ice in a tumbler and add olive. Yields 1 drink.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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